Jewish Defense League

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Jewish Defense League

Not to be confused with the Anti-Defamation League’s philosophy of nonviolence, the Jewish Defense League vows that Jews will fight back.

The Jewish Defense League (JDL) was founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane as a militant group to protect Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York City—by physical confrontations if necessary. Initially the JDL pitted itself against local anti-Semitism, but it soon included defense of Jewish communities everywhere in the Diaspora (the scattering of the Jewish people throughout the world after the Babylonian captivity). The Jewish Defense League should not be confused with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sponsored by B’nai B’rith and established by Sigmund Livingston in 1913. The stated purpose of the ADL is to confront anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry and political extremism through extensive programs and services and a philosophy of nonviolence.

The motto of the JDL was “Never Again,” and they openly opposed the opinion that Jews shouldn’t fight back when attacked. Such a point of view, they reminded their members, was “sold to the Jews of Europe 65 years ago and the result of the murder of the Six Million.”

Mainstream Jewish groups felt that the JDL was too aggressive and extremist. By 2000, the organization had only a few hundred active members.

On December 12, 2001, Irv Rubin, the JDL’s international chairman, and JDL member Earl Krugel were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against Arab American congressman Darrell Issa and against the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California. The JDL contends that Rubin and Krugel were set up by rogue elements in the FBI wishing to neutralize the organization by infiltrating it and implicating its members in conspiracies. Since the JDL had been largely inactive for many years, some within the group suspected the FBI of engaging in a bizarre ploy to appear unbiased in their efforts to pursue terrorists after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

After awaiting trial for eleven months, on the morning of his first scheduled hearing Rubin slashed his throat with a prison-issued razor blade and jumped over a railing to fall eighteen feet to the concrete floor. He lay in a coma for ten days before dying on November 14, 2002. Krugel was sentenced to twenty years in prison on February 4, 2003, but may face up to fifty-five years on a retrial.

Retired police officer Bill Maniaci assumed leadership after Rubin’s incarceration and began molding a New Jewish Defense League. In October 2004 an international leadership convention was held in Reno, and an attorney from Boulder, Colorado, Moshe Finberg, was elected to the chairmanship. With the emergence of the New JDL, membership has grown, and the organization now has numerous chapters located across the United States and Europe. It currently focuses on threats to Jewish communities posed by radical Islam and Islamic terrorism.

On July 1, 2005, the prominent Chicago Jewish activist Ian Sigel was named chairman of the New Jewish Defense League. Proclaiming the league alive and well, Sigel underscored the group’s rejection of violence as a means of accomplishing its goals but reiterated that the New JDL is the only Jewish group in the Diaspora that will proactively control anti-semitism and threats to Jewish communities.

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